• Songs Competed Like Kids For Space

    5. Sep. 2008, 0:36

    Some of the greatest concert, album as well as movies (but that is for another blog) experiences come when the artist blows you away when you had no idea what to expect. I could name a few albums i picked out without hearing a single note which left me open mouthed when i finally played them at home. Likewise there have been a load of artists that were anonymous when they hit the stage and became heroes as they stepped off.

    Elvis Perkins won me over exactly like this. With a sole spotlight shining bright he faced the audience and without saying a word began strumming the chords for ‘While You Were Sleeping‘. One by one the lights lit up as his band introduced drums, double bass and trumpet sowing the seeds to this wonderful song. What followed was a triumphant performance where brief joyous moments like ‘May Day!” were interjected by a reflective sadness producing mass goose bumps in the audience.

    A simple online search will reveal that Elvis lost both parents in seperate yet equally tragic circumstances and the occasional melancholy that creeps into his music must stem from these events. His debut album Ash Wednesday is wonderfully sparse and laced with subtle chord progressions and hazy musings. Combining a Leonard Cohen-esque lyrical dark side and a less-is-more Bob Dylan structuring approach here is a man playing passionate folk-rock in the 21st century and making it sound very relevant. By the time he stepped off stage the merch stand had sold out of his CDs and an other audience was definitely won over. Thu 17 May – Willy Mason, Elvis Perkins

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  • I Never Want To Say My Best Days Are Behind Me

    5. Sep. 2008, 0:29

    Jonah Matranga never takes a break. If you look at his record from as far back as 1993 (be it with Far, as Onelinedrawing or under his own name) he has brought out a release of some sort almost every year. In 2001 hungered for a rock band setup again he recruited members from some of American indie rock’s brightest talents (Shelter, Texas Is the Reason, Chamberlain). Aft their first rehersal they had a name, New End Original, and before they had even played a live show they had a record deal with Jade Tree. Naming the release ‘Thriller’, just like Michael Jackson’s 80s pop benchmark, was an interesting decision but fortunately the album guarantees that that is not the sole talking point.

    Given a new foundation Jonah is able to build and flesh out on the ideas shown in his solo ventures. Having a full live backup does not subtract from the intimacy in his songwriting and the band routinely favours introducing just vocals and gentle strum before growing into full blown sing-alongs. That is not to say they are adverse to some handpicked high tempo stormers to their mix In contrast with the slow building tracks which are brooding and reflective it is on these faster numbers that the band convey most hopefulness.

    Sadly this was to be the only release they would bring out and following 2 years of touring the band split returning to their individual projects. Considering the lighting pace it took to form the band and record their album it is not surprising that they broke up so early. The three songs i have selected are a good taster to the bands diverse sounds, energy and ability. If you were fortunate enough to catch them live in that brief stint you will know that on stage New End Original were an electrifying band. Fortunately ‘Thriller‘ will remain a testament to that.

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  • Now You See Me, Now You Don't

    5. Sep. 2008, 0:21

    Back in the early 00s, long before Last.fm, Pandora and Hype Machine came along, there was an ace little website called Music Buddha. You initially picked one of 7 genres which then allowed you to surf various subgenres. When selecting the subgenre you were interested in you were offered a selection of artists. You could then listen to a few sound clips, rate the music from "completely my style" to "not my style" and then when clicking on ENLIGHTEN ME you were offered tailor made suggestions, amazing! The beauty of mubu.com was that it relied heavily on Independent bands and not just those on the majors. A large proportion of my "discoveries" around that time came directly from what i considered the most valuable recommendation service online.

    One such discovery was a little treat of an EP titled 'Death Of The Alphabet' by a band called Schatzi who specialised in delightful Weezer-esque alt-rock. With big guitars, honey melodies, sardonic lyrics and more hooks than a junior school cloak room it ticked all the right boxes. The title track became one of those "songs of the summer" and i had to buy the CD and this selection of tracks showed a very confident band having a blast. Allmusic.com even went as far as saying "With its tight, appealing songwriting and surprisingly eclectic sound, Death of the Alphabet suggests that Schatzi has a lot more to offer"

    I was using Music Buddha religiously (pun intended) until leaving for my summer holiday, When i got back a few weeks later the website had disappeared. Apparently the company ran out of finances just a few years before Apple would revolutionise how we listen and buy our music.

    As for Schatzi? Their website has not been updated since 2004 though their MySpace strangely proclaims they will be back very soon. Though they seemingly managed to tour with every up-and-coming band in The States and recieved positive reviews all round they only ever released one other album (which reprised many of the best songs from their EP) and just didn't manage to raise their status to the next level. Tracks like 'Death Of The Alphabet' (feauturing the lovely voice of Adrianne Verhoeven from The Anniversary) and 'The Spider Smells Disaster' will guarantee they are gone but not forgotten.

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  • Barack Obama and John McCain's favourite songs revealed

    25. Aug. 2008, 12:10

  • Dub Stars In Their Eyes

    23. Aug. 2008, 13:38

    Easy Star All-Stars is a talented collective that incorporates some of New York's finest Reggae musicians. They have found their niche in recreating subliminal dub/reggae versions of legendary albums. So far they have released a version of Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side of the Moon' and Radiohead's 'OK Computer' and hopefully there will be more to come.

    I first got into the band through their amazing 'Dub Side Of The Moon'. Presenting these rearranged tracks in the same order as the original album was a stroke of genius and the bands authentic reworkings manages to amplify Pink Floyd's sense of psychedelia and mystique. Its a real pleasure to hear illustrious songs like 'Speak To Me/Breathe (In The Air)' and 'Money' in new light.

    I was naturally delighted when their next release 'Radiodread' came out in late 2006. 'OK Computer' was such a seminal album and many of the songs like 'Karma Police' and 'No Surprises' and 'Paranoid Android' are instantly recognised around the world but believe it or not Easy Star All-Star breath new life into them. My selection of Lucky, perhaps a lesser known track from the original album, is owed largely to the fact that this rendition is majestic.

    So sit back, light up a fat jay and float away like these tracks always intended you to do.

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  • Aintcha heard the news? Adam and Eve were Jews

    19. Aug. 2008, 20:30

    Whenever I visit New York I try to check the music section at the Housing Works Bookstore. They always have a great biography or provocative tale of rock excess I can pick up in this second hand store for a bargain, their motto: "fighting AIDS one book at a time" which is pretty noble if you ask me. All proceeds go to charity and the staff are mostly volunteers so it would be unforgivable not to contribute even a little.

    It turned out that a few contributing authors were presenting the Da Capo Best Music Writing for 2006 book in a few minutes. Though at the time i was unfamiliar with the series I've since had the pleasure of reading 3 editions and can say they all collect sensational music essay covering various genres (from Metallica to R. Kelly through Bob Dylan). The one constant throughout is the high level of writing and the fresh take the authors have on the music they love.

    We were fortunate to hear Nick Weidenfield narrate from his piece "Dying In The Al Gore Suite". He claimed that he was the first journalist given complete freedom to talk withDavid Berman, leader of the Silver Jews. The result was the story of the troubled frontman's battle with alcohol and substances which culminates in a spectacular suicide attempt in the same hotel suite Al Gore sat in for 2 weeks whilst waiting to find out that he had lost the election. Ultimately Berman's wife plays a huge part in the fact that he was even alive to be interviewed by Weidenfield.

    It takes some a degree of bravery to put yourself in the spotlight again when everybody knows the exact nature of your troubles but pulled back from the brink Berman threw himself into writing and recording the album that would become the Silver Jews 5th studio album. 'Tanglewood Numbers' acts as a logbook of emotions and realisations as tracks like 'Punks in the Beerlight' set a downbeat tone but are presented with charm and verve.

    Elsewhere there is a real playful element to some of the songs like 'How Can I Love You If Won't Lie down' displaying optimism akin to a man who has lost it all and then found it all again Berman is a happier person now and the Silver Jews are a stronger band for it.

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  • Idle Will Kill

    16. Aug. 2008, 19:00

    Osker were still in their teens when releasing their debut full length Treatment 5. Reviews at the time were generally positive citing the bands youthful age and their competent if not revolutionary take on Rancid/ Green Day. At the same time singer/guitarist Devon Williams was becoming increasingly confrontational with audiences openly baiting his own fans and berating what he perceived as fashion chasing in the scene.

    There is a video from the time of the band supporting Guttermouth. The first thing you notice is how youthful and defiant Osker were and the potential these pop-punk ditties possessed. In it a babyfaced Williams is openly at war with the crowd and refuses to play the part of the compliant opening act. His performance is a times heroic, at times cringe inducing and had i been in the crowd at the time i would have probably been angered myself but to his credit he stuck to his guns. Fortunately he had a plan to disengage from the scene and fulfil the bands potential: Idle Will Kill.

    If Osker's debut album represents that time when your younger brother/sister is a complete pain the ass but secretly quite funny then Idle Will Kill represents the moment that same younger sibling borrows your CDs, becomes cool and starts to hang out with you. All the potential the band had alluded to previously is funnelled into this rough gem resulting 11 tracks to remember. The band sound confident in their delivery and are not afraid to break out of the mould introducing time changes and varied structures.

    The lyrics detail teenage angst in a heart-on-sleeve way and,though the delivery may not be to everyone's liking, the unpretentious backdrop created by the 3 piece allows for the words to be twisted and turned on their head for maximum impact. "If she only knew my wrongs things would be going right" is one of the simple lines thrown in to devastating effect. the resulting album represents emotional punk at its best long before the term had coined to sell records and magazines.

    The album starts in intimate fashion with only a strummed guitar to support the lamented vocal line. A piano and the drums join in to lend a hand as the song builds up into a punchy opening track where Williams spits the legendary line "When were you schooled in technicalities, and I didn't know i made friends with fucking rock critics". It all ends after just 1.16 and you find yourself hooked for more.

    This sets the tone as tracks like Strangled, The Body, Piece By Piece and Contention persist with the uncompromising drumming but allow for an introspective vocal delivery. Many of these tracks clock in at under 3 minutes long but their punchy melodies demand to be sung over and over again. Ultimately Idle Will Kill is an angsty album but there is an underlying feeling that the light at the end of the tunnel is within sight.

    Osker planted a few handpicked slower tempo treasures to contrast the breakneck pace and it seems fans of the bands previous efforts particularly objected to these moments. The irony is that songs like Disconnect, Disconnect, Motionless and (the best track they ever recorded) Kinetic present many of the highlights on the album showing a more mature outlook and a flair for sudden shifts in dynamic.

    This is one of those albums where all the parts of the puzzle fall into perfect place. The drumming never oversteps the mark acting as an anchor for the rest of the band to spark off of, the guitar and bass parts are equally as inspired when they are planted firmly in the driver seat as when they allow the vocals to take the lead. Devon Williams</strong> is not a phenomenal guitarist but that is besides the point when you are a great songwriter and his structural ideas and ear for a hook allow him to carve instant anthems.

    On Epitaph's official website Osker are described as having: 'the ability to piss off everyone around them including their fans, fellow bands, their record company, not to mention the entire nation of Canada' as well as earning the the title: 'most hated band on Epitaph' This is surprising information to reveal in an official band bio, even for a punk label. Having not witnessed Los Angeles scene and relying on limited evidence from the time its hard to decipher how much of the statement above is true. What i do know is that Osker were a special band and Idle Will Kill is an outstanding record.

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  • Agatha Christie presents: Mystery In The Park

    7. Aug. 2008, 21:26

    Thu 14 Jun – O2 Wireless Festival
    Working Wireless Festival at Hyde Park last year saw us scattered to separate locations around the festival area. I had been setting up since 7am and the last thing I wanted to do was hear annoying demands from the herd-like punters. A mix up in the official festival program meant that it was not even clear who was playing on what stage and when until the afternoon. Who would be the poor bastards the organisers would decide should take the stage first at 11.30 on this chilly Thursday morning?

    At 11.35 the first messages started darting around the site. I was receiving texts from people literally as I was sending the exact same message: “who are these guys? They’re fucking awesome!!!!”

    By 11.40 we somehow all managed to drop whatever menial tasks we were undertaking and headed towards the front of the park to catch a glimpse of the mystery band. Due to the aforementioned early hour and the fact it was a workday there were only a few hundred people populating the mosh pit but the band on stage were seemingly unaffected effortlessly flowing from one epic melody to the next whilst channelling pure adrenaline into their exquisitely crafted songs. We still didn’t know who these guys were but we knew they had an ear for a hook.

    After a proper easter egg hunt, some bribing, much arm twisting and a couple of wrestling manoeuvres we found out the band in question were Denmark’s own The Kissaway Trail touring in support of their debut album. We had caught them at just the right time, just a few months into an extensive tour they knew each song inside out but had still to experience any fatigue associated with long touring.

    The Kissaway Trail self titled album builds on the strengths displayed that morning in Hyde Park. The band show off their multi-layered approach with a deliberately focussed production that captures the standout songs and their immediate appeal making for wonderfully moody album. Next time you are at a festival give a thought to those "bastards" who will be playing to an empty field at 11.30 am. They may end up surprising you with an euphoric set peppered with saccharine melodies and dark themes.

    The bands myspace page showcases the sublime 61 and the stand out track Smother + Evil = Hurt. Check these songs out as they are all great examples of what I describe above. For added sonic pleasure i recommend Soul Assassins and the anthemic La La Song which were both highlights at Wireless.

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  • Death Cab For Koko

    2. Aug. 2008, 21:43

    Mon 14 Jul – Death Cab for Cutie, Das Pop, I Was a Cub Scout

    On July 14th Death Cab for Cutie got ready to play their second low key gig in Camden this summer. Having missed their previous May appearance at The Electric Ballroom I was determined to catch them this time. The fact that I had spent many nights in this North London venue when it still went by the legendary Camden Palace name just added to my intrigue.

    First of, what the hell have they done in there?! I had not visited since the 2004 shutting down and subsequent redevelopment of the venue and my immediate reaction was revulsion. Though the area would benefit from more up market alternatives to some of the local hangouts the direction they went with is simply vulgar. The Clash played here for fuck sake, what would they have made of the ridiculous amount of red liberally splashed all around or the Death Star Canteen wannabe bar. Simply put, the place has been reduced to looking like a substandard whore house. Rant over.

    Death Cab hit the stage to a rowdy reception from the sold out 1500 capacity crowd. Despite the fact a small number of punters seemingly attended solely due to the sponsor for the night they were easily drowned out by the hardcore contingent cheering on every song. Ben Gibbard and his troops could relax now knowing most of the people in attendance would sing back every lyric, know every drum beat and recreate every guitar sound.

    Having already seen Death Cab live I knew they had a habit for delivering scintillating live performances and, despite a less than perfect sound at the venue and a few technical difficulties, tonight was no difference. As usual the indie rock legends ticked all the right boxes playing with high enthusiasm, not missing a note and delivering breathtaking renditions of the fan favourites. What impressed the most was that tracks such as Cath..., No Sunrise and the haunting I Will Possess Your Heart from the new release Narrow Stairs blend in effortlessly with their back catalogue and sound like classics in the making. By the time the band performed their closer Transatlanticism they had every person in attendance’s concentration.

    Here is a video I shot from the upper balcony of the stunning I Will Follow You Into The Dark.

    I add the amazing tracks Bixby Canyon Bridge and Cath... from the new album as well as two of my all time favourite tracks from the previous releases Soul Meets Body and The New Year, now if they could just avoid Koko!

    This and other posts from Cougar Microbes

    27. Jul. 2008, 14:16

    The plan is hardly ground breaking: to feature tracks and artists, both past and present, with the hope of promoting these great releases to anyone interested or anyone who stumbles across.

    So without further ado here are a few tracks with the common theme of INTRODUCTION

    Voxtrot - Introduction
    This band cast a spell the moment I heard the gem “Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives” and coulndt get it out of my head for weeks. The Texas band have a real knack for writing memorable hooks and this track is no different. Expect more on Voxtrot very soon.

    Ugly Duckling - Introduckling
    Ugly Duckling prove that you don’t have to rap about guns, bitches and bling to be a “respected” rapper. Make no mistake, though their subject matter is generally fun loving and chilled this does not subtract from the immense lyrical skills these guys have.

    Faith No More - Introduce Yourself
    I must admit when it comes to Faith No More I am a Mike Patton man (who isn’t?!?!) particularly on the underrated ”King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime” album. Be it crooning like a 50s star, screaming like a crazed lunatic or singing with the best of them the versatile FNM front man never failed to impress. It is a testament to the rest of the band that some of the tracks from the Chuck Mosley fronted “Introduce Yourself” release show the potential these guys eventually fulfilled with Patton on vocals. This track is one of the most entertaining cuts from that album.

    The Hives - The Hives Introduce The Metric System In Time

    If you don’t love The Hives there is something seriously wrong with you. The self proclaimed saviours of rock n roll are true masters in the 3 minute pop ditty and had been delighting audiences long before their commercial breakthrough on the back of the Garage Rock bandwagon. See them live and you will need a crowbar to remove your smile as Nick Arson, Chris Dangerous, Dr. Matt Destruction, Vigilante Carlstroem and Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist convert you to The Hives cause

    Thank you for reading so far welcome to COUGAR MICROBES ARE MARCHING IN… www.cougarmicrobes.com